October 2, 2008. Vienna, for centuries the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, is still the great cultural capital of Central Europe. Perhaps the word that best describes the ideal of Viennese life is Gemutlichkeit, roughly translated as "easy sociability".
We took a bus tour around the streets of Vienna. We went along the Ringstrasse, which surronds the most important part of of the city.
We passed a gold-domed structure, the Secession Building, designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich in reaction to the staid artistic conventions of the times.
Then we passed in front of the Parliament, whose building was constructed as an allusion to Greece, the birthplace of democracy. It has Corinthian columns, and rich decorations on the metopes and pediments. In front of it stands a statue of Pallas Athena, the goddess of truth. We continued on to the Vienna Opera House, often seen as an icon of Vienna.
The bus passed in front of the Imperial and Royal War Ministry, General Radetzky's equestrian statue and a fountain in Grabenstrasse, commissioned by Leopold to honor St. Joseph and himself.
We got to Peter's Platz, site of St Peter's Church, overlooking a small recess in Graben Square built in Baroque style around 700 under the rule of Charles the Great.
We went to St Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) still standing after eight centuries of invasions and wars. It is a symbol of the cities' identity.
In the vicinity of the cathedral stands a very modern looking building called the Hass Haus. In the middle of Graben Square, the main shopping area, stands the Pestsaule Fountain, erected to give thanks for the end of the Great Plague..
We spied a sign pointing to the Vienna Spanish Riding School. We proceeded to Hofburg Palace, where it is presently housed. Hofburg Palace was the winter residence of the Habsburgs, and it's now the home of the president of Austria.
In the afternoon we went to Schonbrunn Castle, the former imperial Habsburg's summer residence. It dates from the time of Empress Maria Theresia around 1740.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside. Afterwards we went on a carriage (Fiacre) ride on the grounds and gardens of the palace.
We saw the zoo.
Then the Obelisk fountain.
We walked past the Roman ruins.
The Fountain of Neptune.
The Palm House.
After our Fiacre ride we said goodbye to Schonbrunn Palace.
In the evening we attended a concert at a recital hall of the Vienna Opera House. The building was richly decorated in a sumptuous style. As it is customary, the musicians played the famous Johann Strauss' composition "The Blue Danube". Different entertainers performed dances and songs for the appreciative audience.
At the end of the concert, exhausted by a very busy day in Vienna, we returned to the ship to continue our tour towards Bratislava, passing through some locks on the Danube.